« AnteriorContinuar »
Levi, "and iniquity was not found in his lips. He walked with me in peace and equity, and did turn many away from iniquity. But ye are departed out of the way; ye have caused many to stumble at the law: ye have corrupted the covenant of Levi, saith the Lord of Hosts."
4. The charges brought against gospel despisers, and the punishment threatened to them, are evidences that they enjoyed special advantages for salvation. "It shall be less tolerable for them in the day of judg ment, than for Sodom and Gomorrah.' Why? Because they were exalted to heav en in the enjoyment of distinguishing privileges, they must be thrust down to hell for misimproving them.
God frequently told the Jews that he had fent to them all his servants the prophets, rising up early, and sending them; and yet they hearkened not to his voice. Does not this imply, that he had reason to expect they would hearken to his voice? Jer. xxv,
I saw there was no man," says God, "and I wondered that there was no intercessor," Isa. lix. Surely God knew beforehand that no intercessor would be found. But this manner of expression points out, that it was very surprising no intercessor was found among a people distinguished by such priv ileges.
"I looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes. God knew beforehand what sort of grapes it would produce. When he says, he looked for good grapes, he certainly means, that there was good reason to expect the best, grapes, after he had done so much for his vineyard. Because, contrary to all reasonable grounds of hope, nothing was produ ced worthy of the husbandman, he threatens to lay his vineyard desolate.
If he had reason in ancient times, to expect good fruits from his care bestowed on his vineyard, he has now better reason to expect them, when he hath sent, not his servants only, but his Son to receive the fruits. "Surely they will reverence my son.' If they still disappoint such reasonable expectations, he will send forth his armies and destroy them, Mark xii 6.
But enough, and perhaps too much, has been said on a point so clear; and yet it may be useful to answer a few objections.
It may be asked, in the first place, how this doctrine consists with what has already been proved, that there is no necessary connection between moral seriousness and saving grace; and that our salvation entirely depends on the free and sovereign grace of
To this I answer, that the sovereignty of God's grace, and the absolute freeness of
his purpose of election, do not interfere with the use of means. The very reverse is the truth. God hath chosen the objects of his free love to salvation, "through sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth." But the belief of the truth is wrought in men by the word read or preached, and the sanctification of the Spirit is through the same word, Rom. viii. 2. Eph. v. 26.
The reason why those who wait at the doors of wisdom are likelier to obtain life than others, who frequent the house of the foolish woman, is that God, the only author of wisdom and holiness, commands the blessing inZion,even life forevermore. "Whereever I record my name," he says, "I will come unto you, and bless you. "I will cause the showers to come down in their seasons, and I will make all the places about my hill a blessing." Are not those then most likely to meet with God, and to be refreshed by his showers of blessing, who frequent the places where he uses to dispense them.
"The Lord knoweth them that are his." His eye is upon them before they are brought within the bond of the covenant. He sends his gospel to them. He ordered Paul to continue at Corinth amidst opposition and persecution, because he had much people in that city. There were many elect souls at that time in Corinth, who were not yet be
lievers; and faith was not to be wrought in the hearts of every one of them in one day. Paul must abide patiently among them till the day of grace was come. While they continued in unbelief, God was dealing with them by his word, and preparing them by. the working of his Spirit. through his word, to receive with gladness the tidings of salvation, when they were penetrated with a sense of their sinful and miserable state.
It will be asked by others, whether it is not giving encouragement to sinners to rest in their attainments, without an interest in Christ, to inform them that they are more likely to attain salvation, than persons who are utter enemies to all goodness, and to all the means of reformation.
To this question I would answer by another. When our Lord said to a certain Scribe, "Thou art not far from the kingdom of God," did he give that Scribe any encouragement to continue in his present condition. Might he not say within himself, 'My condition is not so desperate as that of the Pharisees and Sadducees whom Jesus hath this day confounded, by detecting their hypocrisy and malice. I hope, therefore, that I will never be ranked with them in another world, although my condition in this should undergo no change? Was it not much more likely that he would say within himself, 'There is hope in Israel concerning
me. I am not far from the kingdom of God, yet I am not in it. How dreadful will be. my case, if after all, I should come short, through unbelief, of the blessings of that kingdom to which I am declared to be near?"
No doubt, a bad use may be made of the doctrine before us. Men may, in the confidence that their condition is hopeful, rest satisfied with themselves, and come short in the end of that salvation which was within their view. Men may abuse any truth to their own perdition. But whose fault is it if men will mingle deadly poison with the most salutary food, and make that which should have been for their good a snare to their souls.
The proper conclusion from this doctrine is, that sinners should not give way to despondency, but "seek the Lord while he may be found, and call upon him while he is near. Was the blind man encouraged to sit still at a distance from Jesus, when the multiude cried, "be of good comfort, the master calleth for thee?".
It is too true, that many who attend upon gospel institutions trust to their diligence, and conceiving that they are in a very hopeful condition, satisfy themselves with their attainments. But is it not also true, that as many in proportion of careless sinners satisfy themselves with their condition, and are persuaded that they are in litle or no